One of my first visits to London was Spring Break ’03. It beat any wet and sandy adventure MTV had to offer – I backpacked through Europe. Sarah and I had travelled down to spend the night before venturing off the next morning to Paris. In locating a place to sleep that night we found ourselves aboard the oldest underground system in the world – the Tube (according to Native Londoners its properly pronounced ‘chube’).
While we stood on the platform, conservatively minding the gap, an announcement informed us there would be delays on the line because someone had ‘fallen under the train.’ Sarah and I gasped – what a horrible thought. With no further details offered, we were left to wonder what would have caused such an incident. Did they fall? Were they pushed? Was it suicide? My heart went out to the victim, and their family. What a tragedy.
Seven months later, during one my many romance-fueled trips across the Atlantic, I was in London for reasons I am too embarrassed to divulge. Once again we stood waiting for the Tube to transport us to a place of which I am too embarrassed to divulge, when the announcement came on. ‘Blah, blah… train delays, blah blah, someone fell, blah blah’. Oh my god. What a horrible tragedy and what a coincidence. That happened last time I was here.
How naïve I was to feel pity. This happens all the time – monthly if not more often. I have become immune to the thought and have begun to see it as a nuisance that prevents me from getting to work/dinner/skating/drinks on time.
For example, on the way to our ‘Hard Rock Café-cooked’ thanksgiving meal, I was running through Leicester Square (because the tubes were shut) shouting into my phone “Don’t get on the Piccadilly. It’s not running – there’s three people stuck under the train or something. Now everyone’s gonna be late!” Oh my god; how insensitive I sounded. The thought of some poor soul being injured or possibly losing a limb, or their life for that matter – god bless, somebody actually did that night – to their own fault or not would have once left me dumbfounded in sorrow.
How is it that so many people find themselves on the tracks of the underground? City life can be very depressing. England has found itself caught somewhere between America’s ‘workaholic’ work ethic and the cafe culture of Euro mainland. Is the fast pace of London becoming too much and pushing people to the edge? Coming to this horrifying fate may not be that absurd when reflecting on life in the down to the depths of the earth to take a non air-conditioned train home that will most likely get delayed while you are standing with your nose in someones armpit. Being ‘stuck’ under a train may be a more pleasant way to miss dinner with the kids.
But then again many of these incidents occur in the evening/night (night can only include the hours up until 1:00am as the stupid tubes shut then). Is it the recklessness of alcohol-induced fights and laughs that accidentally leaves people helpless on the rails? I have witnessed the drunk crowds – drinking since they left work at 6 until the pubs kick them out at 11. It puts the NY ‘happy hour’ to shame. Maybe the combination of 7 pints and stiletto pumps shouldn’t be allowed on the tube. Are they just too drunk to stay behind the yellow line?
MIND THE GAP people!!
In comparison to the NY subways the tubes are immaculate. The seats are cushioned the floor is free of litter (and urine for that matter) and the poles don’t leave an oil slick on your hand. The stations aren’t hazy with dirt/dust, they have fancy electronic boards announcing the next approaching train and there are no rats in sight. They are attractive; fit for the queen. So what can the NY subways offer?? Well, it’s simple – they work. They continue to move all day and night and most of the time they make it to their destination. They run, they are maintained and they cost a fraction of the price. That outdoes cosy seats and ratless stations anyday in my book.